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Life as we knew it has changed for most businesses who have had to pivot to now manage remote workers. For those employees lucky enough to have a job that they can do remotely, this is has been a good thing.
More and more organizations are offering employees the option of a four-day workweek or telecommuting.
This number has skyrocketed overnight.
Some organizations offer the option to telecommute in an attempt to follow the federal guidelines for social distancing and support a healthy work-life balance, while others do so in an effort to control increasing overhead costs.
The advancement of technology has made telecommuting much easier to manage because of the productivity monitoring software that has come on the market.
According to a Gallup Pole, 43% percent of employees now work remotely – at least in some capacity.
This can be attributed to a changing workforce, technology enhancements, and the need for flexibility in the management of today’s employees.
The current pandemic is forcing many organizations to allow this flexible work option.
For a successful telecommuting arrangement, there needs to be some structure, productivity expectations, and good communication.
However, the number one goal for telecommuting should be to provide the employee with the proper tools and environment so they can do their job and meet the needs of the organization.
7 Tips For Managing Remote Workers
1. Ensure The Employee Is In The Right Job
Not every job is conducive to working remotely. And for it to work, there needs to be a high level of trust between the organization and the employee.
For example, it would be very difficult for the receptionist to answer the phone and greet visitors from the comfort of their home.
Begin by creating criteria for what jobs qualify for telecommuting.
This involves defining what jobs allow employees to work independently and have the flexibility of working at a remote location.
2. Create Policies and Guidelines
A mistake many organizations make is not writing policy the first time someone asks to work from home.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed many employees the option to work from home in an attempt to comply with social distancing requirements.
The decision to allow for remote work is made with the intent of providing flexibility for the employee.
Writing policies and procedures should always be the first step when changing or adding a practice to the organization.
The advantage of writing a policy is that it helps the organization think through the what and how they would like something to happen and uses the document as a guide for equitable treatment of employees.
In the instance of telecommuting, this means defining what jobs meet the telecommuting criteria, expectations for employee productivity, work communications expectations, and the approval processes for requests to telecommute.
This policy should also include things like:
- Determining how long an employee needs to be with the organization before being eligible for telecommuting privileges;
- The employees’ responsibility for the care of office equipment supplied by the organization;
- Safeguarding confidential information;
- The number of days a week telecommuting is allowed;
- The employee work habits that support a positive telecommuting arrangement.
3. Develop a Remote Worker Agreement
Once it is determined that the employee meets the criteria for commuting, a telecommuting agreement should be signed by the employee and the organization.
The agreement should specifically state a trial period and the requirement of an evaluation of how well the employee is meeting expectations.
The agreement should have a time limitation and clearly state that the organization can cancel the agreement at any time.
4. Evaluate A Trial Period
After the employees have been telecommuting for a period of time (as outlined in the agreement), there should be a process to evaluate the employee’s performance during that period.
The manager should sit with the employee and discuss their employee goals, job responsibilities, and how working remotely improves or hinders their ability to get things done.
5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communicate clear expectations for how often the employee is expected to communicate with the office, what kinds of communications are expected, and status reports on work projects.
This includes the supervisor managing the process of workflow to ensure that employee and organizational goals are met.
Employees who work remotely also need feedback from their supervisor.
Whether they are doing a good job or not, employees feel isolated when they work from home and want to know they are doing a good job.
Employees also want to know that they are on a career track and that the job they are in can lead to jobs with greater responsibility if they do a good job.
Have a conversation, at least once a year, about the professional goals of employees and work to help them achieve those goals.
6. Ensure IT Equipment Support
The employee needs to have appropriate technical support for their computer equipment, as well as access to company files.
This kind of technical support is important because if the employee’s equipment stops working and their productivity is halted, they need to be able to get the issue resolved quickly.
7. Make it Social
Anyone who has ever enjoyed the benefit of working remotely will tell you they miss the social aspect of working in an office.
Plan for times that employees can interact in person so they can build rapport and develop relationships with other team members.
Plan off-site training events or team-building sessions to allow all employees the benefit of spending time with other workers.
Most employees would love the opportunity to work from home.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the job responsibilities, discipline, and work ethic to telecommute successfully.
However, writing policies, creating a structured process, and having good communication systems are great ways to reward high-performing employees with a benefit that supports both worker productivity and a healthy work-life balance.